From time to time, attorneys who read iPhone J.D. write to tell me how they are using their iPhone or iPad in their practice. I love to read these stories, and with permission I like to share some of them here on iPhone J.D. I recently heard from Jeff Forbes, an attorney in the Cincinnati office of Wood & Lamping LLP. Jeff represents local governments on issues as varied as zoning, land use, labor and employment, litigation and appeals. He serves as the appointed law director for a number of cities and villages around the Greater Cincinnati area.
Jeff recently started a blog called Big City Small Town Law where he talks about both his law practice and technology. One of his recent posts was about using an iPad in his law practice, and he was kind enough to expand upon that post for iPhone J.D. readers. Here is what he had to say:
If you're like me, you've been attending city council meetings multiple nights every month, sometimes three nights a week, for a lot of years. (OK — you're probably not like me, but play along.) You lug a big accordion file with you to every meeting — a different one for each city or village you represent. Then you lug it back to the office the next morning with even more paper.
That file probably has a legal pad so you can take notes of the meeting and record newly assigned projects. You're probably carrying copies of all the ordinances and resolutions being considered that night (and maybe copies of old ones so you can keep track of the current state of the local law). It might have a copy or two of the city charter, a zoning code, a contact list, a thoroughfare plan, an audit report, an invitation to a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a draft of a silly letter where you're thinking about asking for an increase in your hourly rate. I had all of that and more. Until I got an iPad.
My kids had been begging me to get an iPad. (Not really — I wanted one for myself, but it sounds better to say that the kids nagged me until I broke down and bought one.) In fact, it was my Father's Day gift to myself. I thought it would end up being a pretty cool toy for me, and if I could figure out a way to use it for work, that would just be icing on the cake.
Well, it's turned into a whole lot of icing. I have since turned that iPad over to the kids and upgraded to a 32GB fourth generation model with 4G LTE. All the ordinances, charters, letters, and zoning codes have now been scanned into digital format and loaded on the iPad. Everything in that giant paper file has been replaced with the iPad, including the legal pad itself. In fact, that's all I carry to meetings anymore. I take handwritten notes, my calendar is always with me to schedule follow up meetings, and all of my usual online resources are now available to me with just a touch. Now I wonder how I ever worked without it.
I have experimented with a ton of apps, and I'm still fine tuning a more efficient and productive workflow. Already, I have identified a few absolutely critical apps for my needs. First, representing a number of local government agencies generates a high volume of projects, both big and small. I absolutely love OmniFocus for task and project management. I'm able to create separate project folders for each municipality that I represent and set location-based contexts that allow me to see what work is available depending on where I might find myself. It also syncs across to my iPhone.
Second, my partners and clients are probably tired of hearing me talk about Notability. This app has almost completely replaced my paper file folders for city council meetings. I can carry every document I need, mark up PDFs, and take handwritten notes. I know there are dozens of note taking apps, but Notability is my go-to.
Finally, although there is nothing wrong with the built in calendar app, I have been using Week Calendar HD, which recently was re-released. The fact that I can set auto-color coding based on textual input is awesome. For example, anything that has my wife's name in the event title automatically appears purple. It also syncs to my iPhone.
I continue to test out new apps and tweak my workflow all the time. And the more I read your site, the more ideas I have!
Representing local governments is about as far from my own law practice as you get, and Jeff Forbes is using different apps that I am. And yet we are both using our iPads to do the same thing — store lots of documents and take notes. As Jeff says, it is wonderful to be able to carry just an iPad to meetings without worrying about lugging around large binders, folders, legal pads, etc.
Thanks for sharing, Jeff, and good luck with your new blog!
If you are willing to share your own experiences using an iPhone or iPad in your law practice with other iPhone J.D. readers, I'd love to hear from you! And in case you missed them, here are the reports that I previously shared from other attorneys: